Amateur Baseball: Aces down Coon Rapids at home invite
Aaron Johnson's pitch count kept rising and his effectiveness improved with it.
The Red Wing ace struggled to command his pitches early and threw 130 pitches in seven innings during Saturday's 5-3 victory against the Coon Rapids Redbirds.
"My pitch count was up for the second game in a row but this is a stepping stone that I figured it out a little bit," Johnson said. "My arm felt great."
The tide of the game turned as Johnson got out of a bases loaded, no outs jam in the fifth inning.
"It helped me focus on mechanics and trust my stuff," Johnson said. "I was rushing a little bit. I didn't feel like my weight was on my back leg so I made the adjustment and felt great after that."
Johnson gave up three runs (one earned) on six hits and four walks while striking out six in seven innings. He allowed just two hits after the third inning.
"The biggest development for Aaron is the ability to overcome those first innings," Red Wing co-manager Andy Gibart said. "He's really learned how to pitch and settle in."
For the second night in a row, the Aces fell behind in the first three innings.
Coon Rapids strung together three hits in the third inning and were aided by a Red Wing error to take a 3-0 lead.
While Johnson worked to get into a groove, the Redbirds' starting pitcher Tayler Nelson kept the Aces hitless through the first five innings.
Red Wing still manufactured a run in the fourth inning with aggressive base running as Steve Boldt was hit by a pitch, stole second and took two bases on a fly out by Jimmy Bohmbach to deep right field to make it 3-1.
"I'm telling guys at every opportunity to take an extra base," Gibart said. "I'm not giving them steal signs, it's all on them."
Boldt finished 0-for-2 but scored two runs and stole two bases.
In the fifth inning, Coon Rapids' first three batters reached base and Johnson looked to be tiring on the mound. But he struck out the next two batters and got a pop up to first base to end the threat.
Then, in the sixth inning, the Aces busted out with four runs on two hits and one Redbirds' error to go up 5-3. Boldt was hit by another pitch, stole second and scored on a single by Bohmbach, who finished 1-for-3 with two RBI. Kyle Blahnik followed with a walk and Mike Stegora laced a single down the right-field line to tie the game at 3-3. A sacrifice fly ball off the bat of Tyler Goering made it 4-3 and Alex Quiding reached first on an error by the shortstop, scoring Stegora after he stole third base with two outs.
"They can erupt at any time," Johnson said of Red Wing's offense. "I just wanted to keep it (at three runs) and let them battle back."
"We were extremely patient at the plate," Gibart added. "We got the big hits when we needed it."
Nelson gave up just two hits but walked four, allowing all five runs in the loss.
The Aces will attempt to go undefeated at their home invite Saturday night at 8 p.m. against Fairmont.